7:00am Friday 12th April 2013
By Craig Nelson
THE sad fate of a talented young teenager whose career was ended in his very first senior game is behind Kevin Blackwell’s reluctance to blood his Bury youngsters.
The Shakers boss came under renewed criticism at the weekend after naming just three outfield substitutes for the trip to Hartlepool.
That could be reduced to two for Saturday’s relegation decider at home to Oldham, when Bury will go down if they lose to their Lancashire rivals, who are one place above the drop zone, seven points better off than the Shakers.
Both Craig Fagan and Efe Sodje are suspended, while regular stopper Trevor Carson, who has lost his starting place to Cameron Belford in recent matches, is struggling with a groin strain.
And while veteran striker David Healy will return after recovering from flu, he is only expected to be joined on the bench by either Carl Regan or Valery Mezague, depending on who Blackwell decides to play alongside Ashley Eastham at the centre of defence.
There have been calls from fans and ex-pros, such as Jamie Hoyland, to bolster the bench with members of the club’s development squad.
Hoyland, who played 172 games in midfield for Bury between 1986 and 1990, tweeted after the 2-0 defeat at Hartlepool: “No professional team with a youth system should only have three outfield players on its bench.”
Many fans have been calling for 17-year-old striker Tom Pratt to be given a chance.
The young striker was named on the bench at Sheffield United by then caretaker boss Peter Shirtliff, but has spent the remainder of the season in the development squad.
Yet Blackwell countered: “If it’s not right I won’t do it.
“I remember a 16-year-old lad – Lee Phillips – at Plymouth. He came on and broke his leg and it finished his career, and that kid was such an exciting talent.
“He was not able or ready for the physical demands and a lad hit him with a tackle and it finished his career.
“It is something that has stuck with me for my whole life.
“I will not risk kids and look back and say ‘well, it was convenient when I put him in but he’s never played the game again’.
“The kids have got to be ready physically and mentally. If they are, then you’ve got someone.”
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